Stage Management (like lighting and sound) is regarded by most actors as one of the black arts and, to some extent, it takes a similar amount of practise and dedication to become proficient at it. If you really stick with the job, it can even appear to your colleagues that you can perform magic.
Over the years, the small stage at the Oasthouse has seen a variety of ingenious effects engineered by a dedicated and enterprising band who form the stage crew. The catalogue includes murder by hanging (with a real rope noose!), shotgun (complete with muzzle flash and blood), various other shootings, stabbings and generally unpleasant deaths. Even comedies can have their fair share of effects, and pantomimes can really stretch the imagination (we have had a space rocket lifting off and a fountain/pond with real water). Not forgetting of course, that if the play is a festival entry there is always the possibility that you will progress to the finals where you will have to reconstruct your set in a limited time at a completely strange theatre.
There is, of course, far more to stage management than simply arranging for your leading actors to die horribly. To state the obvious, you don't want it to happen for real in front of the paying public (well occasionally, perhaps, the thought is tempting...). Seriously though, detailed planning and due care and attention at all times is a prerequisite.
Stage management involves coordinating the cast and crew during rehearsals. You make sure that everyone knows what is happening and ensure that the other backstage crew are familiar with the required changes. It involves ensuring that you have detailed understanding of all aspects of the show from actor's movements to positioning of props and that at any time you can tell anyone else just what they are supposed to be doing. If you have ever wondered what Superman feels like when he has just saved the planet (again) then become the stage manager for that "interesting, yet challenging" play that has just been cast.
During the run of the show, as stage manager, you are responsible for the safety of the cast, crew and audience. If things start going pear-shaped it is your responsibility to delay the start or (in really desperate circumstances) cancel the performance altogether - we have had to do this occasionally particularly around late January or February when the snow starts.
In summary, stage management offers everything you could wish for - challenge, artistic interpretation, intimate knowledge of the play, long hours, supreme power and, above all else, good fun.